News compilation on A Socialist In Canada, May 30, 2018
Introduction by Roger Annis:
Readers can compare the following news report published in RT to this May 29 print report by the British state broadcaster BBC. Each news item reports on the same, five-minute broadcast on BBC2 ‘Newsnight’ television program on May 29, 2018.
In the BBC print report (where the BBC2 video broadcast can be viewed), there is no effort to explain why medical officials at the Sainsbury Hospital in Salisbury, England ‘survived’ some 12 hours of treating without precautions two alleged victims of an apparent attack by one of the deadliest classes of chemical weapons agents known to humankind, namely ‘Novichok’. The BBC report contains no timeline of events, hence obscuring that the Skripals were treated for some with what was diagnosed to be an opioid overdose before British police officials convinced the hospital to go into emergency, ‘chemical weapons’ mode. Treatment for a ‘chemical weapon’ only commended afer 48 hours. (The full BBC2 Newsnight episode of May 29, 2018 is here but can only be viewed in the UK due to “rights issues”.)
The United Nations’ Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said from the get-go that it does not list the ‘Novichok’ class of chemical weapons in its registry. The organizatoin has “no record” of production or possession of such a chemical.
Two articles are enclosed, along with weblinks for suggested, related readings.
UK medics treated Skripals for opioid overdose until Porton Down tests showed nerve agent poisoning
RT, May 30, 2018 (with four-minute news report)
The medical team at Sainsbury Hospital were treating Sergei and Yulia Skripal for opioid overdose without any extra precautions until UK chemical weapon experts “confirmed” nerve agent poisoning and “advised” them on treatment, BBC reports.
Staff at Salisbury District Hospital say that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday, March 4, were initially treated for opioid overdose, a new documentary reveals.
“The evening that Yulia and Sergei were admitted, at that point we were led to believe that they have taken an overdose, so there was no mention of nerve agent poisoning,” Sarah Clark, ward sister in charge of the shift on March 4, told BBC2‘s ‘Newsnight’ in an interview broadcast on May 29. “They were needing their support with their breathing and support with their cardiovascular system.”
Some initial reports on the Skripals indicated that emergency services suspected the powerful drug fentanyl may have been involved. The highly addictive synthetic opiate has been linked to a sharp increase in overdoses in the US and has also resulted in dozens of deaths across the UK.
The medical staff was apparently so sure of the drug overdose diagnosis that they did not even consider taking special precaution to protect themselves against potential exposure to the deadly military grade chemical agent, which they were soon convinced caused the ailment of the Skripals.
“At first, when they first came in, there was no indication of the fact that it was a nerve agent. And therefore, we take our normal protection when any patient comes in but would have not at that point taken any extra precaution in terms of protecting ourselves,” Clark said.
Things at the hospital began to slowly change when police told the medical staff on the morning of Monday, March 5 that they were dealing with victims of a potential “targeted attack.” Dr. Duncan Murray, the hospital’s senior intensive care consultant, recalled how he discovered the identity of the Skripals at “six o’clock on a Monday morning,” while Cara Charles Barks, chief executive at the hospital, said that only by 10 am was the case declared an “external incident.”
While the Skripals were first admitted to the hospital on Sunday evening, it was not until Tuesday that doctors realized they were seeing “symptoms typical of organophosphate” or nerve agent poisoning, the BBC investigation claims. This suspicion arose after Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, one of the officers who had attended the scene but whose fate was not part of the BBC report, was admitted with “similar” symptoms.
While some of the symptoms exhibited by the Skripals were consistent with World Health Organization guidelines for opioid poisoning, it was not until a helping hand was extended by experts from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down that the Salisbury medical team finally started treating the Skripals for nerve agent poisoning.
“Whilst a district general hospital laboratory cannot test specifically for a nerve agent, we are able to request tests for the effect of the nerve agent so we can measure anticholinesterase levels and see whether they have been affected. And it was our colleagues in Porton Down that helped us with the testing,” Medical Director Dr. Christine Blanshard said.
From that point on, doctors at Salisbury Hospital began to administer medical treatment, the details of which are kept secret due to medical “confidentiality” concerns. The hospital continued to receive advice from international experts, including the Porton Down chemical weapons research laboratory.
“Clinical decisions were ours, but we would be foolish not to take their advice, which we did. And I think that helped,” intensive care consultant Dr. Jukes noted. “When we began seeing some improvements, it happened a lot quicker than anticipated. Certainly, when you look at these groups of nerve agents, the expectations from the textbooks, the journals suggested a much longer period of recovery.”
Dr. Jukes, who did not initially believe the two would survive, said he was “exceptionally surprised” with the speed of their recovery. In fact, it happened so fast that he cannot easily explain it.
Dr. Murray of Salisbury District Hospital said their recovery is “attributable to the very good, generic, basic, critical care, excellent team care,” and not some magic pill, in addition to “some input from really, really well informed international experts, which very fortunate, some of who have happened to be on our doorstep at Porton Down.”
These are the unanswered questions that still remain after Yulia Skripal’s shock reappearance
By Mary Dejevsky, The Independent, May 24, 2018 (with photo gallery)
Eighty days after being found with her father collapsed on a bench near a Salisbury shopping centre, Yulia Skripal has made a near-miraculous reappearance. She was filmed at an anonymous park-like location [on May 23], reading a handwritten statement about her plight. In substance, what she said added almost nothing to the two statements issued by the Metropolitan Police in her name before. But the whole short recording was crucial in the messages it was designed to send – to the British, Russian and international public.
It was designed, first, to reiterate the official British version of what happened, at a time when that version has started to fray rather badly. So, she said, she and her father had been the victims of a nerve agent attack; she had been in a coma for 20 days; the medical treatment had been extremely unpleasant in many respects – her tracheotomy scar was visible evidence. She was now much better, but still recovering. She did not wish to “avail herself” of the assistance offered by the Russia embassy.
But there were also conspicuous differences from the official British version. There was no blaming of Russia. There was no naming of the nerve agent. And Yulia Skripal gave no indication that she envisaged her long-term future anywhere other than Russia (contrary to an earlier British official “leak” that she and her father were to be given new identities and resettled in a third country).
Her appearance seemed, second, intended to quash some of the more extreme speculation flourishing mostly on social media – that the Skripals were dead; that there had been no nerve agent attack, and that even if the pair were alive, they would never, ever be seen again.
And, third, there was a message addressed specifically to Russia, countering its charges that the UK had “kidnapped” one of its citizens and was unlawfully refusing consular access. Here was Yulia Skripal – well, let’s presume it was not a hi-tech confection or a “double” – saying, on camera, that she did not wish to meet Russian diplomats, at least not now.
What we have here, it seems to me, is an attempt by the UK to limit the damage to its own reputation – damage perhaps it never envisaged, because it assumed everyone would “buy” the “wicked Russia” story. And the reason this had to be done, now, or at all, was that the UK’s silence – media blackout? – about the Skripals had become embarrassing. It invited unwelcome questions, and perhaps it also risked the UK’s “triumph” in orchestrating a collective Western expulsion of Russian diplomats. It is worth noting that some of the more persistent questions have come from journalists not in Britain, but in Italy, Germany and elsewhere.
At least one of the UK’s opening assertions – that Russia was the only country to have manufactured the nerve agent in question – was challenged early, by the head of the government’s own defence research establishment at Porton Down. Since then, it has been shown that the formula was in the public domain from the mid-1990s and that both the Czechs and the Germans had access to the substance and shared the expertise with their Western allies. So the presumption of Russian provenance, let alone Kremlin guilt, was always flawed.
Questions also surround the actual findings of the chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, which was sent samples for testing. Not only were aspersions cast on procedures and some actual laboratory findings, but the watchdog hardly enhanced its authority when its head, in a statement that was subsequently corrected, vastly overestimated the quantity of nerve agent supposedly used.
It is not just details so basic as the nature of the substance, its provenance and the quantity that are still in doubt, however, but a great deal else. Either that, or the information is being deliberately withheld.
Here are just some of the many other still unanswered questions.
* Precisely where and when were the Skripals poisoned? Sowing confusion is often seen as a typically Russian technique to blindside and divert the enemy. But the Russians have hardly needed to sow any chaos here, because the British have helpfully done it for them. Was the nerve agent a substance or a spray? Was it in their car, in Yulia’s suitcase, in a packet of Russian cereal brought by a friend, or smeared on the front door handle? What did a Salisbury hospital consultant mean when he wrote to The Times, saying that “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning” and only three had suffered “significant poisoning”?
* What could have been the motive for such an attack? Why would the Kremlin (or an aggrieved Russian colleague) have waited eight years to hunt down a traitor who – the Russians are on record as saying – had served his time? Why would the Kremlin have risked staging such an atrocity three months before hosting the World Cup? What of the convention that swapped spies are left alone by the country they betrayed so as not to jeopardise further exchanges in future?
* Why the on-off searches and decontamination of parts of Salisbury? Why was the policeman, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, affected, but not the doctor who administered first aid? Why has nothing been heard from either? Did the policeman, as some have hazarded, belong to Special Branch and was his task to tail the Skripals? Where were they when their GPS was switched off that morning?
* Why is there no suspect, beyond “Russia”? Why was there no national or international hunt for the culprit? There was a fleeting suggestion that an individual might have fled on the same plane he arrived on; then a flicker of an intelligence intercept from Switzerland that was so general as to mean nothing. Then silence. When the national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, appeared before MPs three weeks ago, he said there were as yet no suspects. That is an extraordinary – hardly credible – admission. So high-profile an attack, such an international rumpus, and still no one, no one, in the frame?
* What had Sergei Skripal been doing with his time in Salisbury, aside from joining a social club? Had he done something to upset the Russians, or, indeed, British security? Had he perhaps – and this is the conspiracists’ favourite theory – maintained any connection with his former MI6 handler and neighbour? More to the point, did he have any connection, via his handler, with the ex-MI6 agent, Chris Steele, his Orbis security consultancy and the anti-Trump dossier?
Nearly three months on, and still so many questions and so few answers. Through these clouds of uncertainty let me hazard just three considerations. First, the Kremlin was not involved: the Russians were as surprised by what happened as anyone; Moscow was on something of a charm offensive in advance of the World Cup. There was no Russian interest in spoiling the international atmosphere. Could it have been a security or rogue Russian operator? Who knows?
Second, Yulia, because of her security connections (via her fiancé) in Moscow and her regular travel to and fro, may have been a tempting target for recruitment by MI5/MI6. Was an attempt made? Did it go wrong? At least, it would seem from Yulia’s reappearance this week, that making a visiting Russian disappear forever is, thankfully, a step too far for UK intelligence today. Holding her against her will, however, could be another matter.
And third, I rather suspect that both the UK and Russia know more than they have told. This would help to explain both the relatively mild diplomatic response from Moscow in the last few weeks and the recent summary halt to the UK’s anti-Russian invective. Alas, we may be no closer to the truth than this.
 The park appearance and reading of a script by Yulia Skripal was a Reuters exclusive. Read and view it here.
* London police commissionaer makes new claim to keep Yulia Skripal incommunicado, by John Helmer, published on his website Dances With Bears, May 29, 2018
* Yulia Skripal’s postscript: What did she write, and didn’t she say in the British garden event?, plus the neurological evidence, by John Helmer, published on his website Dances With Bears, May 27, 2018
* Yulia Skripal looks so well everything Britain said about poisoning is in doubt – Putin , RT, May 25, 2018
* Czech President’s ‘Novichok bombshell’ undermines London’s credibility in Skripal case, RT, May 4, 2018